Photo credit: Inspiration Center
By Steve Sears
In January, Long Valley’s 22-year-old Alexis Dorlon trekked 1,500 miles to the poverty-stricken country of Belize to aid the medical staff at the Inspiration Center, a non-profit health clinic.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Belize,” says Dorlon, who is working on a master’s degree at Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania, and has a bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy from the same institution. “I love animals, so I’ve asked my mom every time we’re planning a family vacation, ‘Can I go to Belize, please? I want to go into a jungle and see all the animals there.’ They like to go to the beach, though, to relax, so it never happened.” Her professor for one of her courses, Dr. Greg Chown, who travels the world and does occupational therapy in different countries, was starting a first-ever trial trip to Belize and needed were both occupational and physical therapy students to go. As part of Dorlon’s five-year master’s program, in which level two started in January where she could actually practice OT under supervision of a licensed therapist, Dorlon chose the trip as opposed to staying home and studying or taking a brief vacation at a warm weather beach. “I kind of felt like I could make a big difference if I went.”
For Dorlon, though, that “difference” included more than hands-on therapy work. And that’s where St. Luke Parish, the church at which she and her family worship, entered the picture. Late in December, she spoke with Pastor Fr. Owen Moran, who gave her the green light to speak at all Masses. Dorlon addressed the congregations after all weekend Masses, her mission to ask for donations of used, old toys, which she would distribute to youngsters inn Belize.
“I was getting nervous,” she says with a laugh, and for good reason. Collected were 150 lbs. of toys, the toys packed into backpacks inside of four huge duffel bags, therefore allowing each recipient to have both a host of toys and a backpack. A majority of the toys went to the Inspiration Center, where a collective toy library is being created. “I realized I wanted to do more. I only had December and January, and my mind was thinking, ‘I want to make a lasting impact, something that will stay there after I’m gone.’”
Rev. Owen Moran, Pastor of St. Luke Parish, says, “Alexis is a wonderful young woman. She is a strong Catholic woman of faith. Most people when they have time off go to the beach; she went to an island to bring love and strength to the young people who needed her skills and her gifts desperately. She’s an amazing young woman, full of faith, full of love, comes from a very strong, caring Catholic family.”
Dorlon’s want to “do more” she attributes to her parents, Kevin and Nina, who she says are always giving and doing as much as they can for everyone. “Seeing my parents do stuff like that my whole life has just been giving me the perfect example. That partnered with being Catholic and just wanting to make a big difference for people.”